I’m very proud of my novel, Poles Apart. It has been honored with five awards and currently has five stars on Amazon and 4.33 on GoodReads. The feedback has been very positive and very gratifying.
Poles Apart is a book about family, about secrets, and about the damage that secrets can do, even over generations. Here’s the book blurb:
CHAIM SCHLESSEL lost his family to the Holocaust more than sixty years ago. He vowed to embrace life and protect his own wife and children from his painful memories and harrowing experiences. Finding solace in his family, his painting and the healing effects of his wife’s cooking, he has kept his nightmares at bay. But when a new neighbor unwittingly triggers the terrors of his past, Chaim is faced with the horrors that increasingly haunt his soul and threaten his sanity.
DAVID SCHLESSEL, grown, married and successful, is plagued by the always taboo subject of his father’s suffering at the hands of the Nazis. As a second generation survivor, he struggles with his father’s unwillingness to discuss the past and his own inability to communicate with those he loves. With his marriage falling apart and his relationship with his own children deteriorating, David, after numerous false starts, ultimately vows to conquer his inner turmoil.
United by a history they cannot discuss, yet starkly alone in their private struggles, father and son confront their demons as well as one another in a stand-off that will change them both forever.
Tell us something about yourself.
I’ve been a professional writer for fourteen years and have earned numerous awards and been fortunate enough to have nearly my entire body of work published. Writing is such a funny thing. Anyone who writes knows they can’t help themselves but it can be both a glorious and excruciating occupation.
A long time ago I told my husband, probably in a flippant way, that if I made a difference – something real – in the life of one reader I would consider myself a success. I then proceeded to forget all about the statement. Well, recently I happened upon a review on Barnes & Noble’s website. The comment was written by someone who had read Poles Apart, and then later, when having a personal problem, the reader picked up the book again. The reader found comfort and advice in the company of the characters and was able to work out the problem. When I read this review I started to cry. The conversation came back to me and, with it, the realization that I got what I wanted. I was a success. Still, in thinking about it now, I am overcome.
As far as my personal life, I have an amazing husband and two terrific daughters. We have a beagle/basset mix. I’m adopted, which I don’t often mention. Though I will say it gives me a very different view of what family means. Let me give you the “official bio” in case I neglected any tidbits:
Audrey RL Wyatt is right brained to a fault. Before attacking prose, she exhibited photography in juried shows and worked in theatre; acting, teaching and creating children’s theater curricula. So it was surprising that her writing career began in the non-fiction realms of politics, environment and law.
Finally succumbing to her creative nature, Audrey now writes fiction. Her debut novel, Poles Apart, is a story of family inspired by Audrey’s childhood among Holocaust survivors in Cleveland. Whether it was their silence or the horrific stories they told, their presence left an indelible mark. It has been honored with five awards. Her essays and short fiction, often featuring strong-willed, quirky women, have been published in various forums, both print and online.
Always one to foster aspiring artists, Audrey founded Southeast Valley Fiction Writers near Phoenix, Arizona, and Bay State Writers in Southeast Massachusetts. She gives a good deal of time to area schools and also teaches Memoir Writing to seniors. She is a partner in LitSisters Publishing, a boutique house publishing women writers, as well as a founding member of LitSisters, a networking and support community for writers.
Audrey loves to travel and has enjoyed living all over the country, from the Rockies to Boston Harbor. She currently makes her home in the Valley of the Sun.
What inspired you to write this book?
I used to joke that I was channeling my parents when I wrote Poles Apart. But the truth is that I grew up around Holocaust survivors and I heard their stories from the time I was very young. They were part of the fabric of my life in Cleveland. Several survivors were very generous with their time and gave me a wealth of stories and information to draw from.
How did you choose the title?
I’m a sucker for a good title. That’s how I pick most of the books I read. I chose Poles Apart as the title for this story because it has meaning on several levels. This is a requirement for all my titles. In the case of Poles Apart it has to do with various characters being in opposition. It also has to do with the fact that the Schlessels are Polish.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
Publishing is a rapidly changing industry. Every day you find news in the trades that strikes a blow to the big New York houses and chain book retailers. I went the traditional route: i.e., beg an agent to represent me so she can beg a publisher to sign my book and I kept getting rejections that were basically telling me that they liked my work but didn’t think they could sell it. This is not the usual rejection but seems to be the beginning of a trend. Meanwhile, I was also involved with a group of women who were doing the same thing I was.
My colleagues and I got more and more disenchanted with the old ways and eventually decided to take our destiny into our own hands. We formed a boutique house called LitSisters Publishing to publish our work and, down the road, the work of other women.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I’m as right-brained as they come. I started in the theatre when I was six. But even younger than that my family called me Audrey Heartburn because I was always acting, telling stories, making some kind of art project. The times in my life when I’ve been happiest have been the times I’ve been involved in some artistic pursuit.
When my youngest was a baby I began to feel like I had no identity save for the way I reflected others. I was Jim’s wife, Emma and Abby’s mom. But I wasn’t an individual separate from them. One day my sister was visiting and told me about some plans she’d made for the weekend. I nodded, barely listening, but by the next day I was obsessed with an idea. It gnawed at me constantly until I finally wrote it down, just to get it out of my head. It was a fully formed first chapter. I never looked back.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I used to when I just wrote. I would grab my morning caffeine (it was diet coke back then) and read my e-mail before getting to work. But now I’m a writer, a publisher, a publicist, a teacher… the list goes on. Mostly I lament my lack of sufficient time to get it all done.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
It’s a cliché at this point, but I learned that writing the book was the easy part. Marketing, being heard above the din, that’s the hard part. And we all have to do it, no matter how we publish. There’s no marketing money for anyone who needs it anymore. We’re all book promoters.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
I tend to read a variety of things and my tastes change over time. I love thrillers because I so often read craft and marketing books that I want to really relax and be entertained. I read a lot of mainstream fiction. As I’ve said, I’m a sucker for a good title. For example, right now I’m reading a book called The Past and Present of Solomon Sorge. Totally picked it for the title. It’s literary fiction but not typical literary.
As to who I read, my very first favorite author was Judy Blume. I thought she talked right to me. These days I tend to read a lot of different writers, but I’ll always read Tom Wolfe, Stephen King and John Grisham.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I’m working on a novel called Women’s Work. It’s about friendship and how life takes you places you never thought you’d go.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
I could be cheeky and say, “DON’T!” But I won’t. Instead I would tell them about Kurt Vonnegut. Kurt Vonnegut was rejected over 800 times (or so legend has it) before he was finally published. He’s considered one of the 20th century’s most important authors. The American literary landscape would be very different if Vonnegut hadn’t been published.
Perseverence is paramount, regardless of what route you take to publication.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
Poles Apart is about family and it’s about secrets. I think it’s impossible to grow up in a family and not have a frame of reference for these themes. That said, my target audience was women, both because I consider myself a writer of women’s fiction and because women buy 70% of books, so we’re a good target market. Also, I think Jewish readers would particularly enjoy the characters because of their familiarity.
All that said, Poles Apart was selected by the book club of the Chandler Chabad as well as the book club of the Phoenix chapter of the DAR. Go figure.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
I invite everyone to go to my website, www.audreyrlwyatt.com, where they can find out about me, my short stories and essays (either posted there or via link) and find out about Poles Apart. There are links to purchase from various retailers as well as a link to buy an autographed copy directly from me. If you’d like to learn about offers, contests, new books, etc., please send me an e-mail using the link on my website with your name and e-mail address. Also, please find my facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/audreyrlwyatt and find me on twitter at www.twitter.com/audreyrlwyatt.